“Our adversaries are not standing still,” Rear Admiral Richard Breckenridge testified Sept. 13 about U.S. submarine capabilities to the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee, “and so even though we have an advantage and we have a lead, we can’t sit on our lead.” But not only is President Obama sitting on the United States’ current lead in undersea power, he is allowing it to steadily slip away.
Under Obama’s current plans, Breckenridge told the subcommittee, the total number of U.S. submarines is scheduled to drop from 75 to just 52, a 30 percent decline. “We have to continue to move or we do have the potential, within 20 years, of losing this crown jewel, this advantage that we have in the undersea domain,” Breckenridge said.
China is the most likely rival to seek to neutralize U.S. submarine warfare supremacy. The communist nation already has more than 55 submarines, including three equipped with missiles that can target parts of the United States. China’s submarine fleet is now just “a regional undersea force,” Breckenridge said, but it is “growing towards more of a global strategic force.”
Even Russia, which just handed Obama a humiliation in Syria, is building up its undersea warfare assets and capabilities. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s government is presently adding two more nuclear missile attack submarines to the Russian fleet. Even nations like Iran — with Russia’s help, of course — now field significant undersea capabilities, including three Russian Kilo-class submarines in addition to 13 that are indigenous designs.
Undersea warfare capabilities are not the only U.S. military asset that is slipping under Obama. President Reagan called for a 600-ship fleet in the 1980s. Today, the United States has 283 ships, and under Obama’s proposed budgets, that number is set to shrink to 263. And if it is not undone, sequestration will take an even bigger bite of naval readiness, possibly even sending the U.S. Navy ship count to the lowest number since before World War I.
The Navy has already upped submarine deployments to seven months, and aircraft carriers are being forced to deploy for as long as eight months. There are only so many retrofits and repairs the Navy can make to ships that, like the USS Nimitz, are almost 40 years old.
Four years ago, in fiscal 2010, the defense budget totaled $721 billion. This year, after sequestration, the Pentagon is scheduled to spend just $498 billion. That is a 31 percent reduction in just four years. The U.S. Navy cannot project force abroad, as it can today, unless the defense side of the budget sequester is rolled back and the nearly $ 1 trillion in defense cuts imposed by Obama over the next 10 years are restored. “We maintain the peace through our strength,” Reagan said in 1983, because “weakness only invites aggression.” And aggression is what America will get from its foes if Congress doesn’t act.